The Archives

Episode 47: Batman vs. Superman vs. Take Shelter

Much like a Dark Knight after a long and mysterious hiatus (though far less angry and cynical), the Rabbit Room Podcast has returned. Here in Episode 47, John Barber and Pete Peterson discuss the merits of Batman vs. Superman before moving on to Jeff Nichols' acclaimed film, Take Shelter.

The Life Imagined

Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes. The Henry David gem had been buzzing at my mind all day, and all day I had been tenaciously smiling it down. I had smiled it down when I cut out one of the skirt pieces upside down, and when I had to trot back to the store to buy the lining fabric I had somehow managed to forget, and—gritting my teeth a bit—when I found I had to rip a whole long careful row of neat stitches that just happened to be on the wrong side of the fabric. “I need to do this for myself,” I insisted to the air as I took a deep breath and hunched over the billows of pale blue eyelet on my lap. For weeks I had been so busy I’d scarcely had time to breathe. I had a barn-full of newly acquired baby goats and lambs and a whole litany of new responsibilities to go with them. A household regimen threatening to implode under the pressure of forestalled spring cleaning. A garden that had gone in by the sheer grit of one last burst of exhausted productivity. Not to mention a world of needs and their care that clamored outside the boundary markers of my own particular place on earth. And we were leaving on vacation the next morning, leaving all those babies and seedlings and dust bunnies to the oversight of others and packing-ironing-unpacking-repacking-cleaning-out-the-fridge-changing-the-sheets-watering-the-garden-remembering-to-feed-the-fish-and-don’t-forget-the-chicken-feed to get on the road first thing the next day. So, of course, it followed that the very best thing I could possibly do for myself was to make a new dress.

Tonight: Marc Martel Live @ The High Watt

Remember a few weeks back when Marc Martel blew everyone's mind by taking on Whitney Houston / Dolly Parton @ The Local Show? Well if you're after a chance to hear more from Marc and his band, tonight's your chance. He's playing at The High Watt here in Nashville and he'll be singing lots of Queen and other covers as he does when he's on tour with the Queen Extravaganza. If you've never heard Marc, don't miss the opportunity. He's a force of nature. Where: The High Watt 1 Cannery Row, Nashville, TN When: Doors are at 7pm Show starts at 8pm Cost: $10 tickets at the door!

Taking on Life

Now that you've given up something for the past forty days, what are you taking on for the next forty?

"If Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things on. . . . If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off if you are to flourish as a Christian and as a truly human being, then Easter should mean planting, watering, and training up things in your life (personal and corporate) that ought to be blossoming, filling the garden with color and perfume, and in due course bearing fruit. The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving." ---N. T. Wright

Surprised by Joy

I had the privilege of presenting last weekend at the From Death Unto Life conference in Franklin, Tennessee, and one of my sessions was a short plenary on William Wordsworth’s immortal sonnet, “Surprised by Joy” (the poem from which C.S. Lewis took the title of his stupendously wonderful spiritual autobiography). I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here as we navigate the most important week of the Christian year. Bereavement lends such perspective to the great realities of our Lord’s death and resurrection---there’s just nothing like losing someone we love to seal the brand on our hearts of what “death unto life” really means.

Surprised by Joy by William Wordsworth Surprised by joy---impatient as the Wind I turned to share the transport---Oh! with whom But Thee, long buried in the silent Tomb, That spot which no vicissitude can find? Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind--- But how could I forget thee?---Through what power, Even for the least division of an hour, Have I been so beguiled as to be blind To my most grievous loss!---That thought’s return Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore, Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn, Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more; That neither present time, nor years unborn Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
I used to think this poem was about joy. After my father died last summer, I thought it was about grief. Now I know, of course---but as never before---it’s about both. At the exact same time.

In Spite of That, We Call This Friday Good

Today is Flannery O'Connor's birthday. She would have been ninety-one. This year, her birthday falls on Good Friday. It is an altogether appropriate Holy Day for Flannery O'Connor. For Good Friday is the day when grace looks like utter disaster. On Good Friday, the parables run backward: The Kingdom of God is like unto a serial killer that has murdered your whole family and is about to murder you. The Kingdom of God is like unto a Bible salesman who breaks your heart, steals your wooden leg, and leaves you stranded in a hayloft. The Kingdom of God is like the King of Glory become a man, beaten and stripped and nailed to a cross to die. And you didn't expect it to end this way, but now you don't have any reason to expect it to end any other way. In spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Disappointed by God

In those days between Good Friday and Easter morning, I find myself tracing over the bruises that the crucifixion left---not just on the slain body of Jesus, but on the devastated souls of His disciples. You and I come into Holy Week knowing the all spoilers, so it's easy to miss the trauma of the middle of that story. It's hard for us to feel the silence and the disappointment of the chaotic inner days when Christ's followers were so shocked and so hurt, they weren't sure what to do with themselves. Technically, they shouldn't have been surprised. Before His death Jesus was super clear about what was about to go down.  He said, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise." There it is, clear as day. Step by step. But James and John seem to miss all that. They don't even say, "Oh, Jesus, that's kind of bad for you. You're going to be betrayed, and then you are going to die." They're too busy calling shotgun in the coming kingdom for it to even register.

The Vaster End of Blood

[This Good Friday, I commend to you the following excerpt from Chapter 4 of Robert Farrar Capon's most outstanding The Supper of the Lamb.] In the Law of the Lord,      Leviticus, the eighth chapter, the fourteenth verse: Aaron      and his sons laying hands upon the bullock's head, blood      poured at the bottom of the altar to make reconciliation;      the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys and their      fat---all burnt by fire for a sweet savor. Smoke, incense,      wave breast, heave shoulder, rams of consecration, the      pomegranate and the golden bell, sounding upon the      hem of the robe round about; priest and temple, death      and holocaust, always and everywhere. Why? It is tempting      simply to write it off as barbarism, nonsense, superstition;      to fault it and forget it; But the fact of blood still stands,      reproving materialist and spiritualist at once; gainsaying      worlds too small and heavens too thin. This superadded killing,      this sacrifice, these deaths which work no earthly inter-      change, this rich, imprudent waste Witnesses The City's undiminishable size: Man wills to make of earth,      not one Jerusalem but two; this sacramental blood de-      clares the double mind by which he wills to lift both      lion and lamb beyond the killing to exchanges unaccount-      able and vast. Man's priestliness therefore      bespeaks his refusal of despair; proclaims acceptance of      a world which, by its murderous hand, subscribes the      insupportable dilemma of its being---the war of lion and      lamb having no other likely outcome here than two im-      possibilities: The one,      a pride of victors feeding on the slain; but leaving the      lion as he was before, trapped in ancient reciprocities by      which at last all power falls to crows; And the other,      a hymn to despair no victim will accept; it is not enough,      in this paroxysm of martyrdoms, to stand upon the ship-      wrecks of the slain and praise the weak for weakness; the      lamb's will, too, was life; he died refusing death. Sacrifice therefore Not written off, but recognized,      a sign in blood of the vaster end of blood; a redness      turning all things white; an impossibility prefiguring the      last exchange of all. The old order, of course,      unchanged; the deaths of bulls and goats achieving      nothing; Aaron still ineffectual; creation still bloody; But haunted now by bells within the veil      where Aaron walks in shadows sprinkling      blood and bids a new Jerusalem descend. Endless smoke now rising Lion become priest And lamb victim The world awaits The unimaginable union By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain And, Priest and Victim, Brings The City Home. [Artwork by Chris Koelle.]

After the Last Supper

[This poem first appeared in The Molehill Volume 4.] The dirt mingled in the water. Three years’ worth. Even the traitor’s. Even the denier’s. (Already named at the table— for there is no past, present, or future in one who is older than time.) Peter resisted. Would I have also? Said no to my king bowed low, towel in hand, wiping the dust of the earth he owns? The foot-worn mud and grime of past, present, and future dissolve in baptismal waters.

The Fast and the Feast

"Dust you are. To dust you shall return." I don't know what I expected, but somehow the way ashes felt as they smeared on my skin surprised me. There was nothing airy and mystical about this ritual. It felt as ashes probably should, like grit and earth, holding lightness and weight together. I didn't feel the somber emotions I expected either, but I quietly took my place back in my seat for the rest of the service. I've practiced Lent off and on for the past few years, ever since I realized I was tired of Easter sneaking up, but this February marked my first step into the Ash Wednesday tradition. Chris had to work that night, so I took the step mostly alone. Somehow though, I kind of liked it that way --- just me in the middle of the pew, contemplating how very short life is. The service ended in quiet and darkness. Some of us filed out in silence, while others stayed, heads bowed, until who knows how late. After the service, I pulled my beanie down over my smudged forehead, drove around Providence in the dark (mostly lost, unfortunately), and stopped at our favorite bakery to buy two Valentine's Day cupcakes. Strange to go straight from meditations of death to pretty little indulgences. Such is the tension of Lent.

Suffering Alone: Online Art Exhibit (w/ Eric Peters)

Humans are no strangers to pain, to depression, to things (including in our own minds) that make us feel hopeless, trapped, hated, unheard, or afraid. And we often bear the worst pain alone, because we do not know how to talk about it, are afraid to be judged or seen differently, or simply cannot find anyone who has been where we are. But we do know Someone who has been who we are. Someone in whose steps the Church is called to walk. And in Lent, and especially in Holy Week, we remember His suffering---as he bore all the evil of mankind on His shoulders. March 20-26 2016, the Anselm Society's Colorado Springs artistic community (with support from its friends around the world) brings its combined vision to bear on this difficult truth. Giving voice to the pain in our midst, our artists nonetheless say to all of it: the victory is not yours. [Click here to see the exhibit, which includes work by Eric Peters.]

Drawing the Miracle Man

Over the last year, I've been thinking a lot about what Jesus looked like. A book I wrote and illustrated about Jesus, called Miracle Man, for Abrams Books for Young Readers, came out in February. As both a writer/illustrator and Christian, I had always wanted to make a book about Jesus, but imagined it would happen much later in my life. Deep down, I think I was terrified of all the challenges at the core of telling this story. The pitfalls are everywhere when making a visual storybook for kids about Jesus. How do you draw Jesus? What stories do I include, or worse, what stories do I leave out? How much can I editorialize the Gospel accounts? Am I trying to "reboot" the Jesus story?

Resurrect

When Jesus heard Lazarus was really sick, he stayed two more days where he was, because, the Bible tells me, he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. Does that sound wrong to anyone else? Wouldn’t you go immediately to the house of a good friend who was at the point of death? Sometimes we get so wretchedly familiar with the events of the Bible that we miss out on how absurd and tragic and pointless some events must have seemed to the participants. Where is Jesus? Why hasn’t he come? Doesn’t he care? When Eve stood trembling with lies, distrusting God, and then Adam, too, God stayed where he was. When Joseph was thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, accused of attempted rape, and thrown in jail for years, God stayed where he was. When the Hebrews became slaves for years, for decades, then for centuries, God stayed where he was. Abram and Sarai were desperate to see God’s promise fulfilled. Years had gone by. Childbearing years are long gone for me, but Abraham might still have a chance. Hagar. Take her into the tent. And God stayed where he was. Most of us know all the stories. But do we know, really know as a gut-level knowing, the central theme, that shimmering thread that runs through all the biblical events? Resurrect.

Lent/Easter Playlist

We are in the midst of the season of Lent, a period of 40 days traditionally set aside by the Church throughout history for contemplation and preparation leading up to Holy Week and Easter. It is a time to grapple with sin and mortality, the consequences of the fall, and to look forward to the overcoming of the Curse through Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. For me, the observation of liturgical seasons is aided by many helpful practices and tools, one of which is listening to music. Here's some of the music that I have/am listening to during Lent and through Easter.

Release Day Review: Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible, Volume 2

Right in the middle of Slugs & Bugs Sing the Bible, Volume 2 is a song that doesn’t even pretend to be for children. This one is for the parents:

Hear, O Israel— The Lord your God, the Lord is One. These commandments that I give to you today Are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home And when you walk along the road. When you lie down. When you get up.
And when you ride around in your minivan, it could have said. And when you’re fixing lunch, and when you’re tempted to plop the kids down in front of the TV just to get them out of your hair for a little while, is that too much to ask? SBStB2Cover_FinalRandall Goodgame’s Sing the Bible records don’t just offer up that kind of Scripture-saturation as an ideal to strive for; they create the conditions under which it becomes a reality, even a norm. Since I got my copy of Sing the Bible, Volume 2, my car has become a rolling Scripture sauna, where my kids and I breathe the shared air of word-for-word Bible verses. I say my kids and I, but often it’s my wife and I, or me, myself, and I, because, from a strictly musical standpoint, there is more than enough complexity and wit for a grownup to sink his or her teeth into. Randall talks about making music that the whole family can agree on. With the help of producer Ben Shive, he has created more common ground for families.